Dublin, Ireland, European Union – 03 August 2018 (StudVent).
Dublin, Ireland, European Union – 03 August 2018 (StudVent). This is an interview with MLN of the University of Dublin, founded Manal Mukhtar and Ellen Le Bas. Recently the team won the 2019 UCD Start-up Stars Programme, winning 3,000 Euros
- What need will your business satisfy? What problem are you solving?
Employees are miserable with their commute. Studies show that negative emotions are 5 times higher during their daily commute. In Ireland, 50% of people live outside a direct form of public transport to their workplace, resulting in longer and more stressful commutes. 66% of people drive to work with no passengers, adding 1500 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere every year from this commute alone.
Companies cannot afford to expand car parks, with a single space costing between €13,000-60,000 to build or buy. Further, a growing mental health epidemic at work is prominent, with stress, loneliness, and reduced productivity arising due to these frustrating commutes. This is exacerbated by isolation within communities.
MLN reduces organisations’ carbon footprint by promoting effective car usage. It improves mental health by reducing isolation during commuting, and improves sociability within communities by encouraging people to connect .
- How will your business satisfy this need?
MLN offers an innovative real-time, secure carpooling solution. MLN’s B2B model is focused on three customer segments; Companies, Communities, and Colleges. This solution is provided in the form of an app, a web-based dashboard and the MLN box.
The MLN app enables users to act as both passengers and drivers. Our algorithm will track habits, predict arrival times, and notify the driver of lift requests. Using gamification, we attract and retain users by providing incentives and rewards for carpooling participation. Using MLN, the passengers’ commute is free, saving upwards of €1,100 per year.
The MLN dashboard provides customers with visibility of carbon footprint reduction, increase in productivity, and cross-team collaborations. The MLN box uses GPS to automatically detect the user’s commute, alongside an accelerometer and gyroscope to detect crashes and perform vehicle diagnostics.
- What is your company’s mission?
MLN’s goal is to promote effective car usage, improve the commuter’s experience, and increase employee retention. We aim to achieve a more sustainable and efficient future for the community.
- What are your aspirations?
We aspire to reduce corporate carbon emissions, foster a sense of community through commuting, and expand MLN worldwide.
- Are you incorporated yet or still in pre-legal formation stage?
We are pre-legal formation stage. We are currently building our minimal viable product. We have completed a proof of concept experiment with 154 participants from 70 different companies over 1 month. We carried out 500+ surveys, 100+ interviews, impacted 150+ people and hope to empower hundreds.
- How does your business differentiate itself?
Our business differs with our MLN box, in-app rewards, gamification, single sign on and our in-house real-time aspect. Further, we do not need to outsource due to our diverse backgrounds and skill sets.
- What are you selling?
We are selling a real-time, secure, in-house carpooling solution for medium to large enterprises. We have a tiered monthly app subscription based on the number of users.
- What is your target customer/market?
MLN’s primary market is organisations based in areas that suffer with poor public transport, where the majority drive to work. We plan to use Ireland as a test bed before expanding into Europe with over 280,000 such organisations. MLN’s secondary market is universities, with over 14,000 universities across the globe.
- Who are you competing with?
MLN has witnessed various competitors emerge into the market over the last year, with two launching in Dublin within the last 6 months. This growth signifies the current market opportunity, not just in Ireland, but globally. It is clear we are at the cusp of a carpooling revolution, we hope that MLN will be at the forefront when it reaches the tipping point.
The growing competition fails to offer a service like MLN. Some offer web based applications as opposed to a real-time mobile app. Others fail to offer any added security or user accountability whereas we achieve this by using the organisations’ secure single sign on. MLN’s competitive edge is enhanced through our box, currently unavailable on the market.
- Do you have a marketing plan? Do you have a business plan? Do you have a pitch deck yet?
Yes we have a pitch deck, an executive summary, brief marketing plan and a 3 year forecast.
- Who is on your team? How many founders are there? Where and how did you meet?
Our team consists of two co-founders – Ellen le Bas & Manal Mukhtar. We met through the Investors & Entrepreneurs society in UCD.
- How, if at all, has the university helped you?
NovaUCD is located in our university. They are Ireland’s largest university-based startup support with a strong reputation and proven track record in assisting startups to grow and scale both nationally and internationally. They have supported us immensely with mentoring from the founders of Lean Disruptor, provided us with office space and guidance.
- What tools have you used? (organizational, communication,etc.)
Organisation: Trello, Google Drive, Keep, Asana
Prototyping: Adobe XD, Invision, Marvel
Development: Android Studio, Firebase
Communication: Google Hangouts, Meet
- Have you or your team won any competitions? Do you plan to enter into any? (business plan or pitch competitions, etc.)
We were crowned winners of Enactus Ireland Grassroots 2019 at the National Competition, where we pitched the early stage idea.
A month later in June, we won Nova UCD Startup Stars, one of Ireland’s largest student accelerator competitions. We were shortlisted against 15 different early stage student ventures to secure our spot as one of the 7 teams on the intense 4 week accelerator. The final competition was a pitch and Q&A in front of industry experts and VCs. The other student enterprises were very impressive and it was a stiff competition. We were ecstatic to be announced as the overall winner with the judges stating that we were the project with most commercial viability. Thanks to our win, we have secured office space in NovaUCD alongside a number of Ireland’s highest potential start-ups.
We are currently participating in an 8-week accelerator Patch organised by Dogpatch Labs. 12 participants from around the nation were selected based on innovation, ambition and academic achievement. Patch connects us with successful entrepreneurs globally, VCs and technical experts.
Alongside this, we are competing in Y Combinator’s Startup School for the next 10 weeks. We hope to further develop our business model and connect with like-minded individuals.
- Have you raised any outside investment yet?
- Would you like to raise investment? If so, how much?
We plan to bootstrap in the short term. However, we are open to investment in the future.
- What do you need?
We are actively seeking grants and equity free funding opportunities. Further, we would like to involve a few computer science students as MLN interns. These interns are able to work remotely on app development. We are currently acquiring early stage customers. We are eager to talk to anyone who is interested in what we are doing.
- Contact info?